[Katy Clark in the Chair] — Manufacturing and Engineering

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 6th March 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 10:30 am, 6th March 2012

I agree absolutely with the hon. Gentleman. Many people accept, quite rightly, the importance of not being too reliant on foreign sources of energy; that is why we need to ensure that we have a diverse energy policy. Frankly, we need the same approach for manufacturing—we should not be too reliant on our foreign competitors. We need a vibrant steel industry and a vibrant shipbuilding industry to ensure that we have that capacity, and that we produce the next generation of ships and use steel for offshore wind—that is exactly what we need to do.

Let me turn to another important issue, which I mentioned in an intervention on the hon. Member for Stroud: the tie-in between manufacturing, engineering, the wider point about business and schools, and our education system. If we are to see engineering and other STEM subjects rise in cultural importance, it is vital that engineering qualifications have at least parity of esteem with their more liberal arts-based subjects. That is why, as I mentioned in my intervention, the decision of the Secretary of State for Education to downgrade the value of the engineering diploma from the equivalent of five GCSEs to just one is simply wrong.

In the previous Government, I was the Minister with responsibility for 14 to 19 reform and apprenticeships. I had responsibility for the engineering diploma, so I feel protective towards it. It was, and is, a high quality and rigorous qualification that has the support of business and backs the interests of many of our brightest young children. The downgrade is the wrong move if we are to promote engineering. Do not take my word for it. Dr Mike Short, president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, along with 16 senior industrialists, put his name to a letter to

The Daily Telegraph that said:

“The Engineering Diploma is widely recognised as a significant route to providing the crucial technical and practical skills that young people will need to build a Britain that can compete effectively and internationally where technology can make such a difference to our digital world. Industry and the professional engineering institutions have worked extensively to make this 14-19 qualification a highly robust and attractive qualification, which now appears to be being undermined by the Government's premature decision to downgrade its worth.”